Celtics look to win at home before heading out on the road

Portland Trailblazers (19-20) at Boson Celtics (20-18)
Friday, March 9
7:30 PM ET
Game #39, Home Game #24
Radio:  WEEI, KXTG
TD Garden
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Referees:   Eddie F Rush,  Josh Tiven,  Gary Zielinski 
The Celtics are back at the Garden one last time before embarking on a brutal 8 game road trip.  As with several West Coast teams, the Celtics will face the Trailblazers only once this season and won't play them in Portland.

After earning a 2-0 season series sweep in 2010-11, the Celtics have won both games in the series with the Trail Blazers in 5 of the past 6 years. Boston has also won 11 of the last 12 games between the teams.  Portland’s .394 (39-60) all-time winning percentage against Boston is its lowest mark among all current NBA opponents. The Celtics are the NBA’s only active team with a winning record in Portland (27-23).

The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games while the Blazers are just 2-8 in their last 10.  The Celtics have the home court advantage with a 14-8 home record while the Blazers are 5-9 on the road. Greg Oden (knee) and Elliot Williams (shoulder) are out for the Blazers.  Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) is definitely out.   Mickael Pietrus missed shoot around due to swelling and soreness in the knee he had surgery on in the off season.  Chris Wilcox was excused for personal reasons and it's unknown if either player will be available tonight.  Both will be game time decisions. 

Every game is important for playoff seeding at this point.  The Celtics sit at 7th in the East 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the 6th spot and 2 1/2 games in front of the Knicks for the 8th spot.  With the loss to Philly, the Celtics drop to 2 games behind the Sixers for the Atlantic division lead.  Portland is in the 11th spot in the West and just 1 1/2 games out of 8th.

The Celtics will be heading out on a tough 8 game road trip beginning with the Lakers on Sunday.  They will play 4 back to back sets in the course of the trip and 7 of those teams will be above .500. They really need to get a win in this game to give them momentum going forward. 

Probable Starters

Point Guard
Rajon Rondo  13.8 PPG,  5.1 RPG  10.1 APG
Raymond Felton  10.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 6.3 APG

Shooting Guard

Ray Allen  14.5 PPG,  3.0 RPG, 2.7 APG
Nicolas Batum     14.2 PPG,  4,4 RPG,  1.2 APG

Small Forward
Paul Pierce   18.3 PPG,  5.0 RPG, 5.1 APG
Gerald Wallace   13.7  PPG, 6.5 RPG,  2.9 APG

Power Forward
Brandon Bass   11.7 PPG,  5.8 RPG, 1.0 APG
LaMarcus Aldridge   21.6 PPG,  8.2 RPG,  2.5 APG

Kevin Garnett  14.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG,  2.5 APG,
Marcus Camby    3.9 PPG,  9.2 RPG,  2.0 APG
(This game may be historic in that KG's opponent at center is older than him....Or would that be pre-historic?) 

Celtics Reserves

Marquis Daniels
Mickael Pietrus
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Chris Wilcox
Avery Bradley
Sasha Pavlovic
Keyon Dooling

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist)  out
Mickael Pietrus (knee) game time decision
Chris Wilcox (personal) game time decision

Trailblazers Reserves
Wes Matthews
Joel Przybilla
Jamal Crawford
Kurt Thomas
Luke Babbitt
Nolan Smith
Craig Smith
Chris Johnson

Greg Oden (knee) out
Elliot Williams (shoulder) out

Key Matchups
Brandon Bass vs LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge is the Blazers high scorer.  Bass's defense has improved of late and this will be a good test to see how much it has improved.  Bass will have to work on the boards to keep Aldridge from getting easy tip ins and dunks.

Paul Pierce vs Gerald Wallace
Wallace always seems to have a big game against the Celtics.  Pierce will have his hands full trying to contain Wallace, who is very athletic.  Pierce has to be aggressive in this game on both ends of the court.

Honorable Mention
Rajon Rondo vs Raymond Felton
Rondo should be able to have a big game against Felton, who isn't known for being a lock down defender.   Rondo needs to be aggressive and set the tone for the team and for the game.  
Keys to the Game
Defense - The biggest key to every game will be defense.  The Celtics must make defense their number 1 priority.   They especially have to defend the basket better and keep players from getting tip ins, layups and second chance baskets.  

Rebound - When the Celtics put out the effort to out-rebound their opponents it usually results in a win.  When they don't make the effort to rebound, it affects the effort in the other areas as well.  Neither team is a great rebounding team but the Blazers come in at 24th while the Celtics are 30th.   The Celtics have got to make more of an effort to grab rebounds as a team.

Bench -    The Celtics' bench must give them quality minutes in order to keep the starters from being worn out by the end of the trip. Against Philly, the Celtics bench didn't give them much.  Johnson and Bradley combined for 16 points but other than that, the rest of the bench combined for 12 points.  Johnson's 10 points and 5 rebounds in 13 minutes tells me that Doc needs to give this kid more minutes.

Be Aggressive The Celtics must be the more aggressive team.  They have to be the team diving for loose balls, grabbing rebounds, hustling on the court, and driving to the basket.  They can't let the other team out hustle them and they can't settle for jumpers.

Move the Ball - There are times when the Celtics ball movement is a thing of beauty and there are times when they don't move the ball.  There are also times when they move the ball but with sloppy and bad passes.   They have to pass the ball but at the same time they need to be careful with those passes and avoid turnovers.  They have to make the extra pass and find the open man and not let the ball stick and get stagnant.  Hero ball doesn't win many games.

Official Report
Eddie F Rush
In addition to being a member of the NBA officiating staff for the past 24 seasons, Eddie F. Rush has also been a FIBA official for 12 years. While with the NBA, he has officiated 1,508 regular season and 166 playoff games, including 11 NBA
Finals games. Rush was also a member of the crew that officiated the 1994 Japan Games in Yokohama, and the 2000 and 2008 NBA All-Star Games. He also officiated in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Rush has four years officiating experience in the CBA, where he worked playoff and finals games. Prior to that, he spent four years officiating at the collegiate level, and four years at the high school level. Eddie F. Rush officiated the last game of the NBA Finals for five seasons in a row (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009). He was the least liked ref by Cavs fans when they still had LeBron because he was the only ref that called more losses for them than wins. He is also one of Tommy Heinsohn's least favorite refs and there are several rants on file of Tommy complaining about Rush's ineptness. The Celtics are 0-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Rush on the court. In the first game this season, the Pacers shot 18 free throws to 24 for the Celtics and the officiating was bad on both sides. The second game was the loss to Chicago and the refs allowed the Celtics to get hacked and fouled all night with no calls. The Bulls shot 28 free throws to 18 for the Celtics. The Bulls shot 9 free throws before the Celtics shot 1. The Blazers are 2-1 this season and 7-3 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 16-9.

Josh Tiven
Tiven is entering his second NBA season after having officiated 61 games in his first season. He officiated six NBA regular season games in 2009-10 as a non-staff official. Tiven has seven years of NCAA officiating experiencing, as well as two years of WNBA officiating experience and two seasons of WNBA Playoff experience. He also has worked three NBA D-League Finals, as well as the 2007-08 NBA D-League All-Star Game. The Celtics have only had 9 games officiated by Tiven and are 5-4 in those games. One loss was in Houston where Tiven and crew were so bad that they actually caused Tommy to swear on the air over their falling for flops. The Celtics are 0-2 this season, losing to both New Orleans and Dallas, with free throws even at 50 for the Celtics and their combined opponents. The Blazers are 4-3 in their games only games with Tiven. Tiven lives in Connecticut and he has a twin brother who is a big Celtics fan. His home W/L record this season is 21-9.

Gary Zielinski
Zielinski has officiated 616 regular season games and six Playoff games. In addition to his 10 seasons in the NBA, Zielinski officiated for seven seasons in the CBA and four in the WNBA. Zielinski worked the CBA Finals from 1997-2000, the CBA All-Star Game in 1995 and the WNBA Finals from 1998-2001. The Celtics are 1-1 this season with Zielinski in the court. The win was against the Pacers and the officiating was terrible. The Celtics shot 14 free throws to 31 for the Pacers and in one sequence at the end, with the Celtics ahead the refs gave the Pacers 2 shots and the ball on a bogus technical foul on Pietrus. The loss was to the Lakers where the Lakers shot 20 free throws to 5 for the Celtics. That is not a misprint. The Celtics shot FIVE free throws for the game. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games with Zielinski on the court while the Blazers are 2-1 this season and 7-3 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 19-13.

Home Court and Playing Short Handed
The Celtics will be back home and they are coming off of one of the most humiliating losses in the Big 3 era.   They need to take advantage of the home crowd before heading out on the long road trip.  Just as Doc talked about shortening his bench, they may be missing 2 of those bench players tonight.   It becomes much more difficult if Pietrus and/or Wilcox can't play tonight.